Techniques for Recovering Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)

1st March 2014

This report demonstrates the economic benefits of different techniques for the recovery of printed circuit boards (PCBs).

Key findings
Manual Recovery with Re-use Captures Most Value from PCBs, approximately £7,480 per tonne for Stream E and £1,100 per tonne for Stream C
Critical Raw Materials and Precious Metals can be recovered
The UK has Significant Capacity for the Recovery of PCBs
To Increase PCB Recovery UK must collect more WEEE



Within the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling industry, recyclers use a variety of methods for extracting printed circuit boards (PCBs) from WEEE. This report provides an overview of the principal recovery techniques used in the UK, including a description of each and the rationale behind why a company decides to use one technique over another.

Read the Executive Summary >>


The project was completed using a combination of primary and secondary research. The primary research involved conducting site visits and interviewing UK WEEE recyclers (who recover PCBs from WEEE). End market refiners, who recover precious metals from PCBs (facilities outside the UK), were also interviewed.

Read the Methodology >>



Contents >>
Executive Summary >>

                1.0 Introduction >>
                2.0 UK Recovery of PCBs >>
                3.0 Grades of PCBs Recovered in UK >>
                4.0 Precious Metal Recovery (UK) >>
                5.0 Precious Metal Recovery (Global) >>
                6.0 Financial Assessment >>
                7.0 Conclusions >>
                Appendices >>

Download the full report >>



The study found there are four key techniques used in the UK for recovery of

  • Fully manual segregation
  • Fully manual segregation, including re-use
  • Semi-automated with commercial shredding
  • Semi-automated with commercial smashing

The technique used is dependent on the type of WEEE being processed and the value of the PCBs. The table below provides an overview of the financial assessment of PCB recovery techniques.

StreamManualManual with Re-useSemi-Auto Smashing

Semi-automated with


Stream A (LDA)N/AN/A£1,139£498
Stream C (Display)£1,100£8,283N/AN/A
Stream E (SMW)£7,480£11,425£2,463£1,038

Get the full results and conclusions here >>

Where next?

Want to know more about re-use and recycling in sustainable electricals? Take a look at our reports, guides, tools and case studies for further information:

Reports >>
Guides >>
Tools >>
Case studies >>